Yvonne Chambers is a senior school nurse and Healthy School adviser for Nottinghamshire County teaching PCT, and divides her time between these roles. Here she gives a taste of her work to promote good health and wellbeing for young people in Mansfield

My dual role
As a Healthy Schools adviser I work as part of a county-wide Healthy Schools team, based within the Public Health Department, supporting Nottinghamshire schools to reach Healthy Schools status. We work very closely with our key partners in education to promote and sustain a robust Healthy Schools programme and support schools to attain Gold status. We also host brilliant celebration events for successful schools. We continually strive to quality-assure and assess our local programme to ensure all outcomes are met in relation to Every Child Matters. We also contribute to the wider public health team, working together to reduce inequalities in health. Our local healthy schools programme has been very successful, exceeding the targets defined by the national team.

My Healthy Schools work is very varied and enjoyable, supporting local schools, promoting the programme and attending broader public health events. I take a lot of my skills within this role to my own schools, to promote all four themes – PSHE, healthy eating, physical activity and emotional health and wellbeing – in a fun way for young people. I work in schools as part of a task group, which includes the healthy schools coordinator for the school, students’ representatives, a member of the senior management team, catering and the school leads for physical activity, pastoral care, PSHE and sex and drugs education. I find this collaborative works really well and, so far, 30 out of 46 schools in Mansfield currently have Gold status. I also give guidance to schools working to complete their post-Gold action plans, and support schools to work towards re-accreditation and to enhanced status.

From Wednesday lunchtime onwards I become nurse Yvonne. In this role I have the flexibility to plan my own work and spend much of my time in the Manor School, a specialist sports college for
11- to 18-year-olds, and the feeder primary schools.

In the primaries, I support the class teacher and other colleagues to deliver sex and relationship education (SRE) to students in years 5 and 6, and we also run an evening event for parents, covering puberty and the content of SRE.

In Manor School, I cover contraception and sexually transmitted diseases with Year 8 students onwards, and have gained the reputation of the ‘Jonny Woman’ – this beats ‘Nitty Nora’ any day! A key part of my work involves promoting safer sex and effective use of contraception, and I bring out my great collection of unusual condoms to help get the message across.

Other aspects of my work include liaising with the county catering team and school chefs to ensure meals are nutritious and well-balanced; planning and helping to facilitate healthy eating and living days across the family of schools (see box); offering one-to-one support for students and families; and working with the school council to promote student participation. I have also been trained to deliver a programme called ‘Cooperative kids: school matters’, funded by the Neighbourhood Renewal Team (NRT), and work in collaboration with Sure Start and other partners to deliver a six-week parenting programme in the primary schools.

A typical day with my school nurser hat on

  • 8.30am – Have a catch-up meeting with the school nurse team.
  • 9.00am – Arrive at a local primary school and advise the school office when I will be available in school this week. Pick up messages.
  • 09.15am – Meet with the headteacher to discuss support for some of our most vulnerable families.
  • 9.45am – Plan my sex education session with students in years 5 and 6.
  • 10.15am – See a student I have worked with for some time and support him to explore his feelings around the death of his mother from a heroin overdose. 
  • 11.00am – Contact the student’s father and make him aware of some of the anxiety his son is currently experiencing. Some time ago, I referred the father and his family to a local service specialising in support for families of drug users, so I touch base and find out how they are all getting on. 
  • 11.40am – Arrive at Manor School and call in at the school office to give my availability for the week. Pick up messages.
  • 12.00 – Lunch meeting with the Healthy Schools coordinator to discuss criteria for the enhanced status for Healthy Schools and a new smoking cessation course for students.
  • 12.30pm – Work with a student referred to me by the local family planning clinic.
  • 1.00pm – Start to write up case notes from my meetings with students and pencil future appointments in my diary – forward planning is essential.
  • 1.30pm – Arrive at the GP surgery where I help to run the One-Stop Health Shop.
  • 2.35pm – One-Stop Health Shop opens up.
  • 5.15pm – Head home after a varied and fulfilling day.

This account merely offers a snapshot as, due to the varied nature of my roles, I find that every week – and in fact, every day – can be totally different.

Partnership working
I engage in extensive networking with a range of partners in the schools and wider community. The NRT has provided training and funded lots of my work aimed at redressing the inequalities in health in the area (we are within the top 10% on the indices of multiple deprivation). I also work closely with the teenage pregnancy and sexual health service; the extended schools team in the authority; and the Personal Development of Learning team, to support practitioners (including nurses and teachers) in their work to promote healthy lifestyle choices.

In school, a community paediatric assistant supports me in my role, especially with all the health checks and immunisations. There is also a multi-agency locality team at Manor, which means that we can refer students with emotional needs to colleagues who are specially trained to help.

A key part of my role involves planning and facilitating healthy eating and living days in schools (see box). These events bring together a wide range of partners with the joint aim of promoting the importance of good health. I also engage in a great deal of partnership working for children and young people through the one-stop-shop at the local surgery – a well-used service (1,400 young people in the first year) that developed out of a sexual health drop-in at Manor School (we moved the service to the surgery to encourage greater take-up by girls). I also work with partners through multi-agency events at the surgery, such as the ‘get ready for school’ day, when children and parents come in for pre-school boosters; and the teen event, when older students come in for their injections at 15.

Healthy School days

Working with the Healthy Schools coordinator in school, I organise and help to facilitate a ‘healthy eating’ day for Year 7 students at Manor School. The day starts with a free cooked breakfast for the students, visitors, parents and teachers. We then run a range of workshops, including a Ready Steady Cook demonstration, where students vote using the red tomato and green pepper system used in the TV show; and other partners run a marketplace, which is vibrant and exciting, aimed to promote healthy living. During the event, students are given a Healthy Schools branded water bottle to raise awareness of the scheme.

For Year 9 students, we offer a day focused on sexual health and relationships. The event brings together a host of partners. The local midwives come in, for instance, and bring along an empathy belly and models of a baby in utero, and staff from our local hospital give advice on sexually transmitted diseases. Then the school hall is turned into a ‘marketplace’, with a wide range of stalls and workshops – family planning (advice on contraception); an agony aunt; local youth workers do a session on links between alcohol and sex; teenage pregnancy workers bring in the ‘baby think it over’ dolls; the family planning clinic gives out freebies and leaflets to promote the service, and the genito-urinary clinic has a stand, which I support. We also have some fun but educationally-based competitions, such as ‘Guess how many condoms there are in the jar’!

In addition, I have organised events for all year groups in each of our primary schools. We try to make the environment as magical and memorable as possible, with bright colours and balloons, and we invite parents in too. Students, who attend for 35 minutes each, get a balloon, fruit and a carrier bag of goodies and quizzes; and parents get some ‘goodies’, too – in the form of bug-buster combs and lotion. We run healthy eating stands with fruit tasting and smoothies, plus other stands, such as one promoting good dental hygiene, another on road safety awareness, and the council’s school catering service has one to inform parents that everything served is now wholefood – even pizza sauce has broccoli pressed into it. Furthermore, the community sports leaders from Manor come in and do stamina/agility/quickness, which the students just love.

Recently I was on a four-month secondment with the public health department (which developed my skills and knowledge), undertaking a project on alcohol; and I am currently supporting a local college of FE to become a healthy college. I am very happy, though, to be back in my substantive post. Colleagues and myself have developed and are now delivering a good range of services for young people and these are services that they value and use. Nevertheless, we are always thinking ahead and trying new things out so that things do not stagnate. Now we want chlamydia screening and C-Card pick-up in school (the latter is a network scheme whereby young people show their C-Card and are given free condoms), and I am all geared up to OK this with the governors.

I love my work – after all, I’ve been a school nurse for almost  a quarter of a century! I get such satisfaction. It’s funny, but when my son returns home from the army and goes out socialising, he will bump into old friends and one of the first things they ask is, ‘How’s your Mum?’ To know they remember me and hold me in esteem is great. I am so very proud to be part of a robust partnership of multi-agency colleagues working together to make a real difference to the lives of children and young people. This is essentially what it is all about.